KHONGJOM PARVA: A precious treasure of the Manipuris
By: Seram Neken
Besides being a good singer, a Khongjom Parva artiste is supposed to be a skilful Dhalak player, well versed in narrative craft (Wari Liba) and a poet well-acquainted with literature, history and mythology of the land. It is amazing that Khongjom Parva is sung for hours and for days without any written script, delivered solely with the proficiency of the artiste. In fact, Khongjom Parva singer is usually familiar with other musical art forms such as Nat Sankirtan, Manoharsai, Khunung Esei, Khulang Esei, Pena, Meitei Pung etc., as the elements of all these forms are present in the composition of Khongjom Parva. It is indeed a unique musical art form of the Manipuris, gifted by the last war of Manipur’s independence.
Besides being an entertaining medium, Khongjom Parva constantly instills patriotism among the audience by narrating the story of Khongjom war. Khongjom Parva has carved a niche of its own in the already affluent Manipuri music. Although of recent origin, it is now rich in aesthetics. In addition to narrating the episodes of Khongjom war, it has gradually covered other historic, legendary and mythological episodes ranging from Moirang Kangleirol to Ramayana and Mahabharata epics. Khongjom Parva may be composed on any theme or event, but the style of singing and narration remain the same. It may be described as a series of historical and mythological episodes sung in a stylized improvisation of the artiste who also plays Dhalak to add flavor to the narratives. Such a musical form which is found nowhere in the globe may be aptly described as “All-in-One Artiste”. It is more than a song, monologue, narrative or a drama. Different sequences of Khongjom Parva can put the audience in variety of emotions and feelings. Sometime, a listener is made completely emotional and even to be in deep tears, and in another moment, he may fall in unreserved laughter or in complete curiosity. Taste of this musical art form is mixed and changes momentarily. The Dhalak rhythms and vocal fluctuations nicely dramatize the story. In one moment, the artiste may put his voice at peak to break the monotony of the listener, and in another moment he may calm down to the softest and most melodious tone. The sound of the Dhalak goes in different frequencies from moment to moment to maintain variation. The verses are highly lyrical and poetic. Beautiful words and rhymes are used in the delivery. Khongjom Parva may describe an event, a flower, a land or a relationship in highly literary style.
Singngen Na Ong Yenglaga
Taojing Leerel Manbaa Lei
Singngen Leinaa Yenglaga
Cheklaa Saadon Maanba Lei
Leiraang Maana Pomlingei
Cheklaa Pombi Amuba
Kwak ki Machin Maanba Lei ………
(Verses describing Kwaklei flower in Khongjom parva)
The origin of Khongjom Parva is credited to a jolly and skilled personality in the name of Samjetsabam Leinou popularly known as Dhobi Leinou during the last war of Manipur’s independence in 1891. It is said that Leinou started narrating the eye-witnessed accounts of Khongjom war with heartrending lamentations in the form of a song composition after the war. His style of narration and tune were partly taken from Pena, Khulang Esei, Khunung Esei, Nat Sankirtan, Manoharsai styles etc. Such a musical form has been passed on for years from singer to singer by word of mouth, and from generation to generation to form what we call Khongjom Parva Music. This verbal or oral art has become a precious treasure of Manipuri culture identifying the Manipuri peoples and reflecting the meaningful legendary, mythical and historical events of this land.
Nowadays, Khongjom Parva has been classified into Ningthourol or Meihourol Seisak and Moirang Kangleirol Seisak in respect of its content. The All India Radio Imphal, Doordarshan Kendra Imphal and the ISTV network are the only media houses preserving this valuable musical art form for the posterity. The number of singers has become lesser day by day. There are only a few singers alive to teach such music to the posterity. Research works and teaching of this art form need to be encouraged without delay. The organization of a workshop on this art form recently by the state Art & Culture Department is a laudable step towards this end. The Hueiyen Lanpao Columnists’ Forum has also made suggestions for reviving the Khongjom Parva and Pena art forms to the concerned department through a memorandum. Teaching of Khongjom Parva as a subject in the Shri Balmukund-dev Government Music College and in JN Manipur Dance Academy will be a big step towards enlivening the tradition. The authorities concerned may take up the matter in the larger interests of people of Manipur. The general public may also encourage Khongjom Parva by organizing such programmes in localities during festivals and occasions.
(Reference- Resourceful papers on Khongjom Parva by B. Jayantakumar Sharma, Dr. Rajen Toijamba, Dr. Bachaspatimayum Suresh Sharma & Dr. Saikhom Robindro Singh)